Closing Time: Trevor Rosenthal on alert in St. Louis

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Closing Time: Trevor Rosenthal on alert in St. Louis
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You can fix a sandwich. You can fix a television set. Maybe you can even fix a soccer match. 

Can the Cardinals fix closer Trevor Rosenthal? That remains to be seen.

Rosenthal’s been a mess for most of the year, and the mess continued Friday at Seattle. Asked to protect a two-run lead in the ninth, he quickly blew up. Kyle Seager smoked a double. Dae-Ho Lee worked a walk. And then Adam Lind ended the proceedings, crushing a low fastball into the right-field seats, a no-doubter all the way

Although Rosenthal is a reasonable 14-for-17 on save conversions this year, that doesn’t mean he’s pitching well. He’s carrying an ugly 5.63 ERA and 2.04 WHIP. His strikeout rate was ridiculous in April, but it’s fallen for two straight months. He’s walked 21 batters (none of them intentional) over 24 innings.

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A silly .439 BABIP explains part of Rosenthal’s problems, but it’s not all bad luck. His struggles to find the strike zone have led to hitters taking advantage of better counts (they're also laying off borderline pitches more than ever). He’s allowed hard-hit contact on 40 percent of batted balls, easily the worst clip of his career. He’s also been more homer-prone than ever before. Go check the Lind blast again, let me know when and where it lands.

You might worry about Rosenthal possibly pitching through an injury, though his velocity has been good and consistent all year. Perhaps his problems could be rectified with a mechanical fix or two, but if it were easy, the Cardinals would have made the adjustment several weeks ago. 

Manager Mike Matheny didn’t want to commit to any role changes immediately after Friday’s game — that’s how most skippers handle this sort of thing — but he didn’t endorse Rosenthal, either. “I don’t know,” Matheny said, when asked about the closing gig. “I don’t have an answer right now.” 

The Final Boss (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)
The Final Boss (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

If and when a change needs to be made, the Cardinals have two strong options. Rookie right-hander Seung Hwan Oh has been mowing people down all year, and lefty Kevin Siegrist has some closing experience from the past. 

If I had both of them available to me in a Yahoo pool, I’d go after Oh first. He’s posted a 1.66 ERA and 0.79 WHIP for the year, with eight walks against 51 strikeouts in 38 innings. Everything about him screams out “future MLB closer.” He worked a clean eighth inning Friday (including an impressive strikeout of Robinson Cano), needing just 12 pitches.

And don't mistake Oh's rookie status for inexperience; he's 33, and has extensive closing experience from his career in Korea and Japan (he even picked up a closing nickname: "The Final Boss"). The Cardinals signed him to a one-year contract in January. 

Siegrist has been solid but nowhere near as dominant this year; he’s allowed five homers over 29 innings, and his K/BB ratio is around three. A 2.79 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, those are roster-worthy. For his career he’s been effective against both righty and lefty batters, though lefties, oddly, are slugging .467 against him this year

Obviously the frame of the save chase varies greatly, league to league. In some pools, Oh and/or Siegrist are already rostered. In other pools, your last chance to get them was Friday night or sometime Saturday. In shallower formats, you might have the luxury of letting the situation play out, seeing what the Cardinals say publicly, considering what happens with the next ninth-inning lead. 

I just want you to know the tipping point might have come in this gut-punch loss at Seattle. For all of Matheny’s patience, he can wait forever with Rosenthal. The Cardinals expect to be a playoff team every year; at the moment, they're one game out of a Wild Card spot. A Rosenthal timeout, be it short-term or long-term, seems inevitable. 

Check out your waiver wire, do what you have to do. Oh is owned in 28 percent of Yahoo leagues, while Siegrist trades at 15 percent. They’re widely available.